Maltby Psychopathology


Approaches to Personality: Idiographic

The idiographic approach focuses on the individual and describes the personality variables within that individual.

Theorists, who adopt this approach in the main, are only interested in studying individuals one at a time.

They see each person as having a unique personality structure.

Differences between individuals are greater than the similarities.

Idiographic approach produces a unique understanding of that individual’s personality.

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Approaches to Personality: Nomothetic

The nomothetic approach assumes that there exists a finite set of variables that can be used to describe human personality.

By studying large groups of people on a variable, we can establish the average levels of that variable across populations (e.g. age groups, gender), and in this way produce group averages – generally called norms for variables.

The aim is to identify these personality variables or traits that occur consistently across groups of people. Everyone can then be located within this set of variables.

Individuals can then be above or below the average or norm on a variable.

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Therapy and Thinking

Psychoanalysis (e.g. Freud) - human behaviour is the result of the interactions among three component parts of the mind: the id, ego, and superego. 

  • Therapy: Uncovering and realisation of unconscious conflicts/repressed memories.

Behaviourism (e.g. Skinner) – based on the idea that all behaviours are acquired through external conditioning.

  • Therapy: behaviours are learned and unhealthy behaviours can be unlearnt, modified, or extinguished through use of unpleasant or different stimulus/contingencies.

Fritz Heider (1958) - Humans are thought to think like scientists, albeit naïve ones, measuring and analyzing the world around them.

Fiske and Taylor (1991) - argue that acting as cognitive misers (anyone who seeks out quick, adequate solutions to problems) is rational due to the sheer volume and intensity of information and stimuli human’s take in.

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Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

The Basic Theory of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

Ellis (1955) - developed REBT, an action-oriented therapeutic approach that stimulates emotional growth by teaching people to replace their self-defeating (irrational) thoughts, feelings and actions with new and more effective ones.

Behind this simple theory, are two main concepts of rational thought, and irrational ideas:

  • If people choose to stay alive and be happy, then they act rationally, or self-helpfully, when they think, emote and behave in ways to achieve these goals.
  • However, people act irrationally, or self-defeatingly, when they sabotage these goals. 
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Ellis and ABC


Ellis argues that ‘emotions’ and ‘emotional disturbance’ are largely due to our direct thoughts, ideas, or constructs.

Activating experience > Beliefs about experience > Consequences (e.g. depression)

If the internal beliefs are negative such as "I'm worthless" then the consequences will be bad, but if the internal beliefs are "I am good enough" then the consequences won't be so bad, e.g. depression vs. no depression.

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Irrational Thinking and Disturbance

The irrational belief is that we should be thoroughly competent, intelligent, and achieving in all possible respects.

‘Rational’, individuals realise that it is better to do, rather than always need to do well, and accept themselves as an imperfect creature, who has general human limitations and specific fallibilities.

Ellis sees the human child as having innate abilities to think rationally, but also an innate tendency to think irrationally.

Children are brought up by adults who also have a tendency to think irrationally.

This means that individuals are unlikely to have been lucky enough to experience a totally rational upbringing.

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Associations with Irrational Beliefs

  • Need for Approval / Achievement 
  • Demands About Others 
  • Awfulizing
  • Emotions Are Externally Caused / Discomfort Anxiety 
  • Usefulness Of Being Concerned
  • Problem Avoidance  
  • Importance of the Past 
  • Demands About Life 


  • High levels of Anxiety/Depression
  • Social Dysfunction
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Anger, Guilt, and Jealousy
  • Relationship problems
  • Problems of dealing with criticism
  • Lack of control over situations
  • Low Self-Esteem
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Aims of REBT

Ellis saw the main aim of psychotherapy is to help individuals acquire the following six personality traits

  • Self-interest
  • Self-direction
  • Tolerance
  • Acceptance of uncertainty
  • Flexibility
  • Self-acceptance
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Trait Approaches & Galen

Most predominant theoretical approach and based upon the lexical hypothesis


  • Relatively enduring, highly consistent internal attributes
  • Emphasis is placed on the person as opposed to the situation or environment
  • A characteristic pattern of behaviour or a disposition to feel and act.

Galen Personality types:

Sanguine: lively, sociable, carefree, talkative, and pleasure- seeking.

Choleric: excitable, impulsive, and restless.

Melancholic: serious, introverted, cautious or even suspicious.

Phlegmatic: inward, thoughtful, calm, patient, caring, and tolerant

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Lexical Hypothesis Approach

Types and Traits

In true typologies, types were seen as distinct and discontinuous

In contrast, trait theories see traits as dimensional - people will vary in terms of where they fall on a dimension

Lexical Hypothesis Approach

Language has many words to describe the qualities or characteristics of humans

Presumably, any trait that exists has a word to describe it

Galton – the most important individual differences tend to be encoded in language as single words

Words used more frequently are more important – so personality words used more frequently are more important personality characteristics

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Gordon Allport

Studied the English dictionary and found more than 4,500 words describing specific personality traits (lexical approach).

Stressed importance of studying mentally healthy people - conceptualised human nature as normally being rational, creative, active and self-reliant.

Resisted the idea of finding “personality law” that would apply to everyone.

Defined 3 types of personality traits:

  • Cardinal traits - This is the trait that dominates and shapes a person's behaviour.  These are rare as most people lack a single theme that shapes their lives.
  • Central traits - (5-10 traits). General characteristics found in some degree in every person. These are the basic building blocks that shape most of our behaviour although they are not as overwhelming as cardinal traits.  An example of a central trait would be honesty.
  • Secondary trait - These are characteristics seen only in certain circumstances (such as particular likes or dislikes that a very close friend may know). They must be included to provide a complete picture of human complexity.
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Factor Analysis & Extraversion

It's a statistical analysis technique for data reduction, essentially a more complex version of correlational analysis:

  • instead of looking at 2 variables, FA looks at the relationship between many variables

Attempts to find patterns of association in a set of variables.

Extraversion vs Introversion: 

  • This factor is a measure of the individual’s sociability.
  • Individuals who score highly on extraversion are very sociable, energetic, optimistic, friendly and assertive. Individuals with high scores are labelled extraverts.
  • Individuals with low scores are labelled introverts. Introverts a described as being reserved, independent rather than follow socially, even-paced rather than sluggish in terms of their pace of work.
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Openness & Conscientiousness


This factor refers to the individual having an openness to new experiences.

  • It includes the characteristics of showing intellectual curiosity, divergent thinking and a willingness to consider new ideas and an active imagination.
  • Individuals scoring highly on openness are unconventional and independent thinkers.
  • Individuals with low scores are more conventional and prefer the familiar to the new.


This factor describes our degree of self-discipline and control.

  • Individuals with high scores on this factor are determined, organised and plan for events in their lives.
  • Individuals with low scores tend to be careless, easily distracted from their goals or tasks that they are undertaking and undependable.
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Agreeableness & Neuroticism


This factor relates very much to the characteristics of the individual that are relevant for social interaction.

  • Individuals with high scores are trusting, helpful, softhearted and sympathetic.
  • Those with low scores are suspicious, antagonistic, unhelpful, sceptical and uncooperative.


This factor measures an individual’s emotional stability and personal adjustment. Costa and McCrae (1992) suggest that although a range of emotions exists, individuals who score highly on one rate highly on others. In psychologic terms, the various emotional states are highly correlated.

  • Thus, the individual who scores high on neuroticism experiences wide swings in their mood and they are volatile in their emotions.
  • Individuals with low scores on the neuroticism factor are calm, well adjusted and not prone to extreme maladaptive emotional states
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Five Factor Model Summary






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